Cooling towers are industrial coolers that eliminate waste heat which originates from different sources such as industrial machinery or oil refineries. Cooling towers reject heat, either through the use of evaporation to cool the waste heat or by using air flow to eliminate heat. These two different systems are referred to as direct, open circuit and indirect, closed circuit cooling towers. Regular maintenance is essential to keeping the cooling towers operating effectively by minimizing scaling and ensuring that bacteria, algae, and fungi are not able to flourish.
1. Preventing Harmful Organisms
There are several things to keep in mind when performing cooling tower maintenance. Due to the presence of water and heat, cooling towers are the perfect environment for certain bacteria and fungi to cultivate. Perhaps the most well-known, and dangerous, of these is Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. It is recommended that cooling towers are cleaned at least twice a year, at a minimum, to avoid harmful bacterial and fungal growth. During these cleanings, the towers should be subjected to a thorough disinfection routine to effectively kill any organisms living inside the tower. However, it is preferable to have a continuous biocide program in place to ensure that potentially dangerous bacteria and other organisms will never have the opportunity to infect the tower. Therefore, regular cleaning is essential to properly maintain cooling towers and prevent harmful organic growth.
2. Descaling Mineral Deposits
In addition to preventing the growth of harmful organisms, descaling is an important part of the maintenance of cooling towers. Descaling the mineral deposits that tend to build up on cooling towers is an essential component of regular maintenance. Typically, this is accomplished by using a chemical descaler to remove the deposits.
3. Sludge & Debris
Another component of cooling tower maintenance is the removal of sludge or debris that gathers in the cooling towers over time. After removing the free water, the sludge remains in the tower and can then be sucked out with the use of high-powered vacuums.
While regular cleaning is important, it’s also a good idea to look at prevention when considering a maintenance plan. Chemical treatment programs, when used regularly, can help prevent issues like the growth of dangerous bacteria and fungi as well as hinder the build-up of mineral deposits.
5. Looking Ahead
According to OSHA standards, cooling towers should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected twice a year, at minimum. Typically, these cleanings are scheduled around the change of seasons, during the time immediately before the cooling tower’s start-up and immediately following its cessation. Regular water treatment, descaling and cleaning up sludge and other debris will ensure that the cooling tower will function properly. Taking proactive measures will prevent the growth of harmful organisms as well as help the cooling tower function properly.
One of the best ways to ensure that proper maintenance is being performed is to create a comprehensive maintenance plan. Plan for regular cleanings at twice a year, and when possible have preventative measures in place. The Merrick Group specializes in a wide range of cleaning and maintenance services for both indirect, closed and direct, open cooling tower systems. Contact us to find out more about our services and to schedule a cleaning.
John Merrick is the owner and president of The Merrick Group, Inc. He has over 25 years of experience with coordinating national and international sales efforts for nuclear and fossil fuel related maintenance projects. He has successfully completed projects in over 30 nuclear and fossil fuel sites.